[Rift] Defeating the Defeatist

Jaradcel writes up another in-depth guest post on Rift PvP. Enjoy! –Ravious

Lately with the amount of PvP I have been doing, it feels like my brain is beginning to bleed “learn2play” attitudes. I have caught myself replying to obvious troll bait yells or even doing so myself.

Upon consideration, I feel like one of the root causes of this, which is far less prevalent in a PvE aspect, is because of the way developers tend to design for PvP. There are several reasons, but to start the ball rolling: Developers tend to cater to the defeatist.

In order to appeal to the vast majority of your players, you must ensure that the vast majority are happy. For PvP, the most obvious manner is to reward gear, “exclusive” content and other such knick knacks. This rewards winning, obviously, but at the same time you cannot allow the losers to simply not advance either. Not to do so would result in one side eventually having a greater gear disparity through constant winning that would eventually steamroll the other side. As such, even losers gain a small amount of whatever PvP currency you have to dish out.

What such an insidiously simple concept fosters, however, is the thought that losing is OK. If we win, that`s great. But if we`re losing…

“Oh, the other side is premade.”

“Oh, the other side is better geared.”

“Oh, we lost the first point. There`s no point now.”

“Oh, we’ll get it back next game.”

And then your team gives up, sitting in their respawn box waiting for the timer to tick down. When there is no personal risk of loss to yourself (Unlike, say, Eve Online`s winner-takes-all style of battle) it fosters in your player base a sense that there is no real need to win, either. We`ll get it next round.

A few examples come to mind to help illustrate the point. World of Warcraft`s two “contested” battlegrounds, Wintergrasp and Tol Barad, were notorious for their varied issues. Wintergrasp had issues with uneven teams, while Tol Barad initially awarded the attacking winner team ten times as much rewards. In short, it fostered a “why bother defending?” attitude in its players.

Rift, too, has the same problems. More often than not, whichever side wins the initial scrum will continue to dominate – be it in battlegrounds or an open-world PvP rift. Forcing the other team into their graveyard, unable to exit, is not uncommon. Once the whining sets in, it goes endemic. Teams rarely – if ever – recover. Again, it fosters a “why bother?” mode of thinking that seeps into its player base.

This thinking then leads into the more insidious “Why try at all?” problem. Win or lose, I will gain some form of currency. So why waste my time and effort when I can simply hide in a corner and alt-tab to do something else? If I win, great. If not, oh well. It will just take me a little longer to get to the same gear level. And maybe then I can compete…

I think catering to defeatists is approaching the problem wrongly. However, I also realize that the opposite can be equally un-fun (Allowing only the winners to get the gear) because of gear disparity. One solution that I`ve seen comes from the surprising source of shooters. Global Agenda and Team Fortress 2 offer players who “grind” (aka play for a long time) the option of sidegrades. You could take, for example, a heal gun that grants both you and your ally invulnerability, or one that offers the ally 100% critical hit chances with no invulnerability. Both bring serious strategic choice to the player, without necessarily unbalancing the gameplay. Everything else is then left to player skill. Those 100% crits are horrifyingly scary and potentially team-clearing in the hands of a good Demoman in Team Fortress 2, for example, while invulnerability is fantastic for defending the final cap point.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

Jaradcel

16 thoughts on “[Rift] Defeating the Defeatist”

  1. In both of your MMO examples (Rift and WoW), you of course note the disparities…yet, use an “action” shooter (TF2), and then the uneven-ness of gameplay goes away.

    Why?

    Because a GCD based game and PvP just do not go together. When a players capability is based on the balance of the game being developed with classes who do not have matching skill sets, versus how the player can maneuver, etc…PvP will always be a fail.

    Relegate PvP to action based games, or else make skills work in synergy (every player has the same basic skills sets and abilities, like a heal, knockout, etc), thus having PvP be all about players capabilities, and not how they used a guide to build a specific FoTM.

    Guess I don’t belong in this conversation…but, I always put in my 2 cents about how PvP in MMO’s just do not work when classes have too many variations that we end up with one class who will always prevail until the next balance update patch.

    1. The trouble his not the class variation, you can always balance the power of each. The real trouble his the gear, you get pvp where skill doesn’t matter that much since the one with the better gear will win.

    2. Agreeing with Elementalisly, and I’ll even dwelve a bit more on the cynical side: this is where most MMOs show their true colors, in that the base gameplay is not very fun and what keeps people playing and coming back is the steady stream of rewards only (Zynga, I’m looking at you, too).
      By contrast TF2 gameplay for instance is fun and people keep coming back for more despite a quite scarce progression and reward system.

    3. Guild Wars… Spectromancer… Magic: The Gathering Online…

      Sorry, there are too many counterexamples.

      1. Too many counterexamples for which Jabber? *Grins*

        I would argue that of those three you listed GW is another perfect examples of sidegrade-titles.

        GW requires you choose your skills wisely before going into PvP (Although by now I haven’t played it for so long I’ve near forgotten if any other than resurrect are essential)

        Spec/Magic otoh are more similar to the way PvP plays out in MMO’s, in the sense that you need to choose between equally valid options (I.e. Choose which of your PvP skills to use and blow a GCD on)

        Their sidegrade-ness occurs when you have to pick your deck for Magic (not as big a problem for spectromancer) wherein you have to decide if you want to, say, go blue for counterspells or green for big creatures.

        PVP in a similar way has that side-gradeness in that you choose which spec to go into PvP with.

        The problem, as I see it, isn’t the skillset of skills/spells you bring to the battlefield – Those can be nerfed/buffed/tweaked into FoTM or whatever – but that even if you did use it and lost, you still “win”.

        The idea for having only one winner takes all encourages more deadly games and even regular swing-from-behind wins, but it doesn’t keep a playerbase in a MMO PvP game happy if they keep losing.

        1. I think Jabber is listing those examples more as a riposte to Ele’s post, because those games are all “GCD” based with complex non symmetrical classes as opposed to reflex based, yet clearly succeed as PVP games. (turn based being akin to GCD here.) Why do these games work? Because in those games there is an evolving metagame and the skill lies in both finding the fotm that no one else has discovered yet, and strategically guiding that build to victory. Rift actually has some of the potential pieces of a MtG-like model already, if trion were a more ambitious dev.

  2. What if there was variance in how much a win or loss got you in the currency of choice? Right now, a close win rewards the same as a blow-out. What if the losing team got less and the winning team got more based on the ratio of their victory?

    Basically, what if there was a point to fighting on after a loss seemed inevitable?

    Granted, that is easier to do in some circumstances than in others. Arathi Basin, for example, has a nice score displayed out of which you can determine a close game or a blow-out.

  3. Your commentary on Rift is pretty accurate but there’s one major factor you missed out. Because Rift uses pools of servers for Warfronts the side that’s winning can change very often.

    When I was doing a lot of Warfronts a few weeks back, if I found my side was losing badly and I was seeing the same names crop up in each WF I just left it for maybe two or three minutes before rejoining the queue. This often shifted me into a different pool of people and as often as not my side was then the dominant one. I’d then rejoin the queue immediately each time we won and generally re-appear almost immediately with the same people.

    I think more could be done behind the scenes to break up winning runs by one side. Only works if the population is high enough to be spawning multiple instances, of course. If it’s already taking 20 minutes to get a battleground to pop at all then you have to take what comes or go without.

    1. That is a problem I see inherent in having to use cluster servers to ease server load.

      I’ve seen tons of threads in WoW and Rift where one side says the other dominates them (Mostly due to server imbalances for players)

      One solution mentioned was to move around clusters to more evenly match them – High defiant win servers clustered with high guardian win ones etc.

      I don’t know how technically feasible that is though.

  4. Part of the problem is rewarding people for doing nothing. How about basing individual rewards off total damage done, damage healed, and damage TAKEN? Then give the winning side a percentage of the total individual rewards as a team reward. I’d also want to see some reward for debuffs active per target to give the CC player some love. Finally, a percentage bonus/penalty based on relative level and gear of the entire group like is often done in PVE could help dampen the negative effects of the positive feedback look from gear/level advantage.

    The thing is to reward people for participating, not just winning or waiting around, and to not over-penalize them for lower levels or less gear.

  5. Games like WoW and Rift don’t require much player-skill to play, and so in order to differentiate people, you have lvls/gear/tokens. This leads to high-skilled PvP’ers getting frustrated because no matter how well they play, they can’t impact the outcome as much as they would expect. Once those people leave, you are left with lower-skilled, non-PvP’ers PvPing. Those types are more than happy to lose so long as they get a token, which then feeds games like WoW/Rift more reinforcement to continue to cater to that crowd.

  6. The problem is not so much that devs cater to the defeatists, but rather that they cater to people who don’t like risk. Making losing have consequence would just make people not want to play because someone will end up being the loser, and thus taking the penalty. This has been the case in pretty much every PvP-focused game.

    Even measuring and thus rewardinng performance can lead to problems. If you track damage done/healed/taken, then the person who focuses on stunning enemies gets screwed over. Or you have a few people who collude and the winning solution is to have your DPS beat on their tank who gets healed repeatedly (and their DPS does the same to your tank backed by a healer), not contributing to the actual fight but puffing up their own statistics.

    And this isn’t even considering the problems griefers can cause when they intentionally screw with others for giggles.

    The best PvP is where winning isn’t explicitly rewarded or punished. But, in achievement-focused game if something isn’t explicitly awarded then it is considered mere “fluff” and not worth doing. So, you get the defeatists where the better option is just to wait around next time for a chance to win rather than fighting and prolonging the fight. Which frustrates the people who actually want to play for no good reason.

  7. A counterpoint:

    WoW’s Tol Barad didn’t initially reward attacking winners 10x what the losers got. That reward system (which didn’t last long, for obvious reasons) was instituted after Tol Barad hadn’t changed hands in months on many servers due to the battle being so difficult for an attacking force to win. Instead of redoing the fight, they tried to fix it by changing the rewards to cater to people who stuck it out and tried to win despite huge odds against them.

    Whereupon we, the players, handily defeated them at their game of trying to reward us for winning – by losing on purpose half the time.

  8. What Psychochild said. Basically, there are two reasons players might engage in PvP (or any other activity) – either because it’s an intrinsically fun thing for them to do or because they can obtain a reward in return for doing so. Now, there are people who PvP for the fun of it – DAoC and WoW both had active open world RvR/PvP going before any rewards were added for doing so – but a large body of players want to know what’s in it for them. And unfortunately, once you have PvP rewards you have players who are there for the rewards not for the PvP, and who want to optimise their reward/time or reward/effort ratio by losing fast or AFK leeching rather than playing hard and working for a win.

  9. I wonder if it might not be more interesting to lower the power for each kill. Basically, in a battleground, each time you kill someone, you win one point and you deal 1% less damage. In the end, you get reward proportionnal to your points.

    That way, each time you get killed makes it easier to win the next encounter. And if you kill, it makes the rest more challenging :D

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